Ombudsman’s Report Reveals Budget Concerns and Record Complaints
The Office of the Ombudsman has released its report for the period, February 15 to June 30, 2023. The 22-page document reported on several areas include professional and personal development provided for its seven staff members, comparison of statistics in recent years, as well as several concerns that inhibit the office from carrying out its mandate. Among those concerns is the budget allocation. The report noted, quote, “It is of grave concern that the budget allocated to the growing office does not allow the Office nor its officers to fully carryout their investigative duties as efficiently as it can. While the Office has no issues garnering the support of the Government in efforts to increase the budget, the Ombudsman is of the belief that the Office is heavily dependent on the Clerk of the National Assembly for administrative functions. This ultimately leads to delay in processes and a compromise of the Ombudsman’s independence and the integrity of the Office.” End of quote. According to the data compartment of the report, a total 87 complains were lodged at the Office of the Ombudsman during this period. These included at least three (3) unprecedented complaints. Several of those cases reportedly had to do with retired public officers not being paid their retirement benefits on time or upon their retirement from the public service. Of the total complaints, 61cases were from the Belize District, Cayo 17, Dangriga 5, Orange Walk 3, and Corozal with 1 complaint. Eighty-two (82) were made against a variety of governmental authorities, including ministries, departments, statutory bodies and city council(s), while Five (5) complaints were made against private persons. It is to be noted that of the 87 cases lodged, thirty six of them have been resolved and closed; 32 are actively being investigated; and 19 are pending further review or details. Finally, as part of the Ombudsman’s outreach programme, the Justice of the Peace Association was contacted to provide assistance to assist persons in formulating and lodging their complaints within their respective municipalities. Consultations were also held with the Mayors across the country with a plan to hold mobile clinics to accommodate residents.